I Have a Complaint!

Let’s face it no one’s perfect, including nonprofit organizations created to “make a difference.” Even with a dedicated leadership team and hard-working staff, mistakes are made, egos are bruised and things go wrong in the life of every tax-exempt, nonprofit organization.

From time to time, individual stakeholders may be inspired to file a complaint about a nonprofit. Nonprofit leaders who view a stakeholder complaint as an opportunity to grow and improve make the process of complaining simple and straightforward. Step right up. Tell us what “went wrong” from your perspective and share your thoughts on how we can remedy the situation. The Nonprofit Risk Management Center encourages its nonprofit clients to welcome complaints and remove unnecessary barriers to complaining, such as lengthy forms, frustration-inducing voice mail trees, or unfriendly front-desk staff.

When nonprofit stakeholders contact the Center to inquire about the “process” for filing a complaint against a nonprofit, we urge callers to begin by contacting the nonprofit to share their concern. A nonprofit should be an unhappy stakeholder’s first stop to seek resolution of a complaint about the organization. The leaders of well-run nonprofits recognize that proper handling of complaints can convert an angry donor, volunteer or service- recipient into a card-carrying ambassador. When receiving a complaint from any stakeholder, remember to:

  • Sincerely acknowledge the stakeholder’s frustration, anger or disappointment;
  • Stay cool and calm. It’s easy to match a stakeholder’s frustration with your own. Yet there is little benefit—and much to lose—in allowing frustration to get the upper hand. Try to see patience as a strategic lever for getting to the heart of the problem and its positive resolution.
  • Take time to understand the nature/subject of the complaint. Resist the urge to rattle off your official policy on the matter. Nothing will anger a volunteer, donor or service recipient quicker than a too-quick recitation of even slightly inapplicable organization policy.
  • Remember that you may not be the best person to handle the complaint. If a colleague has essential details or authority that may be relevant to resolving the complaint, politely propose to connect the complainant with the appropriate colleague. Offer to stay involved or follow-up so the stakeholder doesn’t feel that they are been handed off.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

There may be times when you (or a stakeholder of your nonprofit) have a complaint against a nonprofit that can’t be resolved directly with the organization. State governments exercise regulatory authority over the nonprofits incorporated within their borders. In some states the office with oversight responsibility—including the authority to investigate complaints—is the office of the state attorney general, while in other jurisdictions it is the secretary of state’s office or a separate department of consumer protection. A growing number of the states have created easy-to-use online forms for filing complaints against nonprofits. The Center is pleased make available a list of the websites containing information on the complaint process in the various states.

Keep in mind that state agencies and their staff cannot provide legal counsel or representation to an individual filing the complaint. If you have a personal claim for which you are seeking monetary damages or specific performance, you will need to retain counsel.

Note: The listing below does not include state labor departments or human relations/EEOC agencies—the agencies that typically handle claims and complaints about wage and hour or civil rights violations.

Alabama
Information about the Consumer Affairs Division:
www.ago.state.al.us/consumer.cfm

Tips on resolving and filing a complaint:
www.ago.state.al.us/consumer_complaint.cfm

Online complaint form:
www.ago.state.al.us/consumer_form.cfm

Alaska
Brochure regarding Consumer Protection Act: www.law.state.ak.us/pdf/consumer/BrochureGeneric_TRI.pdf

Background on filing a complaint:
www.law.state.ak.us/department/civil/consumer/cp_complaint.html

Directions on how to handle your own complaint, including a sample complaint letter:
www.law.state.ak.us/department/civil/consumer/complaint-own.html

Consumer complaint form:
www.law.state.ak.us/pdf/consumer/FORM_complaint.pdf

Arizona Procedures for filing a consumer fraud complaint online: www.azag.gov/consumer/OnlineInstructionsEng.html

Consumer complaint form for on line filing:
www.azag.gov/consumer/complaintform.html

Procedures for filing a consumer fraud complaint by mail:
www.azag.gov/consumer/MailInInstructionsEng.html

Consumer complaint form for mailing:
www.azag.gov/consumer/consumercomplaintform.pdf

Arkansas
General instructions on submitting a complaint:
www.arkansasag.gov/consumers_consumer_complaints.html

Consumer Complaint for mailing:
www.arkansasag.gov/pdfs/CONSUMER_COMPLAINT_revised_11022010.pdf

Consumer complaint form for online submissions:
www.arkansasag.gov/contact_us_consumer_complaint_form.html

California
General information regarding handling charity complaints:
http://oag.ca.gov/charities

Complaint to attorney general on a nonprofit organization: http://ag.ca.gov/charities/forms/charitable/ct9.pdf

Colorado
General instructions for submitting a complaint, including link for Complaint Form Charities Program:
www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/charities/forms/CHAR_COMP.pdf

Connecticut
General information from the office of the Attorney General:
www.ct.gov/ag/cwp/browse.asp?a=2270

Information about the work done by Special Litigation and Charities Unit: www.ct.gov/ag/cwp/view.asp?A=2270&Q=299484

Complaint form:
www.ct.gov/ag/lib/ag/consumers/consumercomplaintform.pdf

Delaware
Instructions on reporting charity fraud: http://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/consumers/protection/charities.shtml

Florida
General information about the Division of Consumer Services:
www.800helpfla.com/soc.html

Online complaint form for submission to the Division of Consumer Services:
https://csapp.800helpfla.com/CSPublicApp/Complaints/FileComplaint.aspx

Georgia
General information about the office of consumer protection and approaches to filing a complaint:
http://consumer.georgia.gov/consumer-topics/charities

Information on filing a complaint:
http://consumer.georgia.gov/consumer-topics/filing-a-complaint

Form for mailing a complaint:
http://consumer.georgia.gov/pdf/Complaintform.pdf

Interactive consume complaint from for submitting on line:
http://oca.awe.gta.ga.gov/ima_form.asp?name=GENERAL_COMPLAINT

Hawaii
General information re: attorney general's over sight:
http://hawaii.gov/ag/charities/

Complaint to the attorney general on a nonprofit organization:
http://hawaii.gov/ag/charities/forms/compl_2_ag_on_nonprofit_org-revised.pdf

Idaho
Office of the attorney general information re: charitable fraud and filing a complaint:
www.ag.idaho.gov/publications/consumer/CharitableGiving.pdf

Information re filing a complaint:
www.ag.idaho.gov/consumerProtection/forms/ComplaintFormInformation.html

Complaint form:
www.ag.idaho.gov/consumerProtection/forms/ConsumerForm_Online.pdf

Illinois
General information filing a consumer complaint, with links to form:
www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/filecomplaint.html

Attorney general consumer fraud bureau complaint form:
www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/conscomp.pdf

Indiana
General information about charitable giving: www.indianaconsumer.com/consumer_guide/charitable_giving.asp

General information about filing a consumer complaint:
www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2434.htm

Online consumer complaint form:
http://12.186.81.50/ConsumerComplaintForm/ConsumerComplaintForm.htm

Consumer complaint form for mailing:
www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/files/complaint.pdf

Iowa
General information about protecting charitable giving:
www.iowaattorneygeneral.org/protecting_giving/index.html

Online nonprofit abuse complaint form:
www.state.ia.us/government/ag/file_complaint/online_nonprofit_abuse_complaint_for m.html

Kansas
General information regarding filing a consumer complaint including links:
www.ksag.org/page/file-a-consumer-complaint

General information of attorney general assisting consumers:
www.ksag.org/page/assisting-consumers

Charitable organization investigative request:
www.ksag.org/files/Charities_Form.pdf

Kentucky
Links for resources on charitable giving:
http://ag.ky.gov/civil/consumerprotection/charity/

Links to complaint forms by county:
http://ag.ky.gov/civil/consumerprotection/complaints/forms.htm

Louisiana
General information regarding charities:
www.ag.state.la.us/Article.aspx?articleID=3&catID=0

Charity complaint form:
http://ag.state.la.us/Shared/ViewDoc.aspx?Type=3&Doc=212

Maine General information about consumer protection:
www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/

Links to forms:
www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/charities/complaint.shtml

Maryland
Are You Concerned About a Charity? Let Us know online form:
www.sos.state.md.us/charity/Concern.aspx

Massachusetts
Background on AG's Oversight & Enforcement Role:
www.mass.gov/?pageID=cagoterminal&L=3&L0=Home&L1=Non-Profits+%26+Charities&L2=Registering+a+Public+Charity&sid=Cago &b=terminalcontent&f=nonprofit_general_faqs_about_charities&csid=Cago

Charitable Organization Complaint Form:
www.mass.gov/Cago/docs/nonprofit/charities_complaint.pdf

Michigan
General information regarding charities:
www.michigan.gov/ag/0,1607,7-164-17331_23326-63035--,00.html

Consumer Complaint/Inquiry Filing Information:
www.michigan.gov/ag/0,1607,7-164-35846-42077--,00.html

Online filing complaint form:
https://secure.ag.state.mi.us/complaints/consumer.aspx

Consumer complaint inquiry form - printable version:
www.michigan.gov/documents/ag/Consumer_Complaint_Form_346645_7.pdf

Minnesota
General information about charities and filing a complaint:
www.ag.state.mn.us/charities/phonycharityvsreal.asp

Nonprofit/charity complaint:
www.ag.state.mn.us/ElectronicForms/CharitiesComplaintForm.pdf

Mississippi
General information about the Securities and Charities Division of the Secretary of State:
www.sos.ms.gov/securities_and_charities_charities.aspx

Charity complaint form:
www.sos.ms.gov/links/sec_char/CharityComplaint.pdf

Missouri
Information about having and filing a consumer complaint:
http://ago.mo.gov/consumercomplaint.htm

Consumer complaint form online:
www.consumer.ago.mo.gov/

Consumer complaint form - printable:
http://ago.mo.gov/forms/complaintform.pdf

Montana
Information about consumer complaints, plus link to online form:
www.doj.mt.gov/consumer/consumercomplaint.asp

Common problems who to contact:
www.doj.mt.gov/consumer/commonproblems.asp

File a Complaint - Start:
https://app.doj.mt.gov/apps/Oscar/complaintstart.aspx

Consumer Complaint form printable version:
www.doj.mt.gov/consumer/docs/complaintform.pdf

Nebraska
Information regarding consumer protections and links to informational brochures:
www.ago.ne.gov/consumer/ ; www.ago.ne.gov/consumer/emailforms/consumer_complaint.htm

How do I file a consumer complaint?
www.ago.ne.gov/complaint;

Consumer complaint form:
www.ago.ne.gov/resource/forms/consumer_complaint

Nevada
http://ag.state.nv.us/org/bcp/bcp.htm
http://ag.state.nv.us/org/bcp/cadinfo.htm

New Hampshire
Consumer complaints - Understanding the Complaint Process:
http://doj.nh.gov/consumer/complaints/index.htm

Consumer complaints with link to electronically filed form and printable version:
www.egov.nh.gov/consumercomplaint/

Printable Form:
www.doj.nh.gov/consumer/documents/consumer-complaint.pdf

Filing a Consumer Complaint online:
www.egov.nh.gov/consumercomplaint/step1.asp

New Jersey
Division of Consumer Affairs - How to File a Complaint:
www.nj.gov/oag/ca/comp.htm

Consumer Complaint Form:
www.nj.gov/oag/ca/complaint/ocp.pdf

New Mexico
Consumer Protection Division, general information with links to tips on resolving disputes and consumer complaint form:
www.nmag.gov/office/Divisions/CP/Default.aspx

Should You File a Complaint? (Consumer Protection Division):
www.nmag.gov/office/Divisions/CP/shouldyoufile.aspx

Instructions for filing a Consumer Complaint and Complaint Form - printable:
www.nmag.gov/office/Divisions/CP/ConsumerComplaint.pdf

Consumer Complaint Form:
www.nmag.gov/office/Divisions/CP/complaint.aspx

New York
Contact information regarding charities:
www.charitiesnys.com/contact_new.html

Charities Complaint with link to form:
www.charitiesnys.com/complaints_new.html

Complaint inquiry form:
www.charitiesnys.com/pdfs/char030.pdf

North Carolina
General information regarding charities from the Department o f Justice:
www.ncdoj.gov/Consumer/Charities-and-Non-Profits.aspx

File a Complaint - What to Know about Filing a Consumer Complaint with links to electronic and printable versions:
www.ncdoj.gov/getdoc/fdbee1c7-c2a9-4f67-91b2-bb50beea1c0a/2-2-12-File-a-Complaint.aspx

File a complaint - electronic:
www.ncdoj.gov/getdoc/59be4357-41f3-4377-b10f-3e8bd532da5f/Complaint-Form.aspx

Consumer complaint form - printable:
www.ncdoj.gov/getdoc/b92bda56-ef5b-4bad-8717-854c28b27438/Consumer-Complaint-Form.aspx

North Dakota
Consumer Protection Information and Links:
www.ag.state.nd.us/CPAT/CPAT.htm

Consumer Complaint Form:
www.ag.state.nd.us/CPAT/PDFFiles/SFN7418.pdf

Ohio
File a complaint about bingo, a charity or a charitable solicitation:
www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/services/non-profits/file-a-non-profit-complaint

Complaint Form - online:
https://coin.ag.state.oh.us/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabindex=4&tabid=9

Charitable Organization Complaint Form printable:
www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/files/Forms/Forms-for-Non-profits/Charitable-Org-Complaint-Form

Oklahoma
Public Protection Unite - If you have a consumer complaint:
www.oag.state.ok.us/oagweb.nsf/ccomp.html

Consumer complaint form:
www.oag.state.ok.us/oagweb.nsf/0/dd237d83d9509cff862572b400738e40/$FILE/complnt.pdf

Consumer complaint form:
www.oag.state.ok.us/consumer/complt.nsf/complaint.html

Oregon

Complaint Form:
www.doj.state.or.us/charigroup/complaint.shtml

Solicitation Complaint Form:
http://www.doj.state.or.us/charigroup/download/inquiry.pdf

Pennsylvania
Filling a complaint with the Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section with link to form:
www.attorneygeneral.gov/complaints.aspx?id=475

Charitable Trusts and Organizations Complaint Form:
www.attorneygeneral.gov/uploadedFiles/Complaints/charities.pdf

Rhode Island
Department Complaint Form:
www.dbr.state.ri.us/documents/divisions/banking/securities/complain-frm.pdf

South Carolina
Department of Consumer Affairs Complaint Services information and link to form:
www.scconsumer.gov/complaint_services.htm

Complaint Form - online:
www.scconsumer.gov/dcacf/dcapolicy.htm

South Dakota
Online consumer complaint form:
http://atg.sd.gov/Consumers/HandlingComplaints/ConsumerComplaintForm.aspx

Consumer Complaint printable form:
http://atg.sd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=v6o56SRFzIo%3d&tabid=413

Tennessee
Online complaint form:
www.tn.gov/consumer/consCompFrm.shtml

Complaint form - printable:
www.tn.gov/sos/forms/ss-6077.pdf

Texas
Charities and Nonprofit - complaints and enforcements:
www.oag.state.tx.us/consumer/charities_complaints.shtml

Charitable trusts complaint form:
www.oag.state.tx.us/consumer/charitycomplaint.pdf

Utah
How to file a complaint with the division including link:
http://consumerprotection.utah.gov/complaints/manual.html

Consumer complaint form:
http://consumerprotection.utah.gov/downloads/complaint_form.pdf

Vermont
How to file a complaint including online link [handled through the Community Assistance Program of the University of Vermont]:
www.uvm.edu/consumer/?Page=complaint.html

Virginia
About the office of consumer affairs:
www.vdacs.virginia.gov/consumers/oca.shtml

Consumer complaint form:
www.vdacs.virginia.gov/forms-pdf/cp/oca/complaint/oca1complaint.pdf

Washington
General information including links to electronic and printable forms:
www.atg.wa.gov/fileacomplaint.aspx

West Virginia
General information about charities:
www.sos.wv.gov/business-licensing/charities/Pages/default.aspx

Complaint form:
www.sos.wv.gov/business-licensing/charities/Documents/charities_complaint.pdf

Wisconsin
Consumer protection how to file a complaint:
www.doj.state.wi.us/dls/ConsProt/cp_complaints.asp

Wyoming
Information and contacts for making a complaint:
http://attorneygeneral.state.wy.us/index.html